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Comcast cuts off customer for going over 250GB of legitimate use (12160.info)
274 points by ek on July 13, 2011 | hide | past | web | favorite | 279 comments



Internet access is required to file a police report in Oakland, or so I was told by the OakPD switchboard operator when I called to report my car being broken into and vandalized.

i.e. they would not send a car; they would not take information over the phone. I was told I must file the report online.

When an essential service like Police require you to use a service, it definitely seems like that service has moved from the category of "novelty," or "luxury," into "utility."

There are possibly good reasons for internet providers to continue to be private, but like water and power and other utilities, they should be heavily regulated. Going over a bandwidth cap should not land you in a position where you cannot (e.g.) file a police report after you have been the victim of a crime.


This is absurd. Another reason not to trust police to have your interest as their primary concern...

If you were presently witnessing the car being broken into, then that would be 911 level.

EDIT: There is a correlation between my use of the word "absurd" and downvotes.


Oakland has had huge budget cuts, directly affecting police. The irony is that (perceived or real) high crime in Oakland is one of the main reasons few businesses move there (here, sadly); Pandora and Oaksterdam are the only new ventures I've really seen. Other than that, it's mostly legacy companies like some big insurers, the Port, etc.

I'm sure if you were actively watching a crime, 911 would be accepted, but trying to move everything else to an online report seems like a reasonable cost cutting step. If it were possible to take the report online and keep 1-2 cops out for an extra hour, it's probably worthwhile. There should be an exception process for "come in to the station and file on paper", and for in-progress crimes, and for more serious/life threatening crimes, but as a step, this isn't that unreasonable.

Of course, if someone broke into my house here, I'd probably be calling my attorney before I called the Oakland PD.


If you were presently witnessing the car being broken into, then that would be 911 level.

Agreed, and for clarification, this was not the case for me: I discovered the break-in later; I did not witness it.

More irksome was the operator's suggestion (after telling her my laptop was stolen from the car) that I use a computer at the public library... which didn't open for another ten hours. If I had been robbed on a Saturday night instead of a Friday, I would have had to wait until Tuesday to report (worst case obviously... smartphones and friends, etc. but what if you don't have those?).

Not saying the policy is a good one, but I use it as an illustration of how people are coming to see internet access as universally available and constructing policy against that notion.


> This is absurd. Another reason not to trust police to have your interest as their primary concern

In most countries the police are not there to serve your interests, but to protect law and order. This corresponds to your interests only when the law does so. When the law is against your interest, so are the police.


The author had me up until the moment he claimed that internet access is a "right". Ok, so let's say internet access is a "right". Rights often come within a framework. You have many rights that are yours for the losing. Your freedom to come and go freely, for example. If you break a law, you lose your freedom by being put in jail.

To say something is a "right" is to say that it ought to be available, or that the government should not infringe upon your ability to seek that right unduly. In this case, the author broke the rules of the framework, and thus his right was suspended.

What a right to broadband is not: an irrevocable license to use as much of a shared resource as possible for a fixed price you deem appropriate.

Author, if you're reading, this is why people are saying you sound entitled. You're conflating "rights" with your own viewpoint that you should have unlimited internet access at a fixed price.


"Unlimited usage for a flat, monthly fee" this would suggest that the authors impression of the services is exactly what you say it isn't.

If you read this you can see that Comcast does indeed try to convince the consumer that you can transfer any amount of data you want for a fixed monthly fee: http://consumerist.com/2010/03/comcast-unlimited-usage-doesn...

Comcast as what is essentially a public utility operates within a framework of the FCC which creates a non-competitive marketplace so that service providers such as Comcast can ostensibly focus on providing better service to the public rather than focusing on competitive efforts such as better marketing, customer service, etc. The deal between Comcast and the gov't is essentially "We'll take care of competition, you focus on providing great infrastructure to the public"

In a very close to completely free market such as a bakery I'd agree with you but Comcast operates in a different kind of market, also depending on when the person signed up one of the terms marketed might have been "Unlimited Internet" which would suggest that you could consume unlimited services for a fixed price. Also, if there is a 250GB cap then Comcast should just terminate the service for the remainder of the month, and change the wording of their marketing to "Transfer upto 250GB per month for a flat monthly fee"

In a non-competitive market fueled by public expendature I don't see why it would be inappropriate to force service providers to provide access to the infrastructure to all under the same terms.

For example: You pay a fixed price for a fixed amount of bandwidth and your service stops working when you exceed that.

Comcast is the Internet Soup Nazi: "No internet for you! 1 Year!"


> "Unlimited usage for a flat, monthly fee" this would suggest

The weasely way around that, used certainly by UK ISPs in defending their use of the word "unlimited" is that you have unlimited access (24/7/365.25) rather than unlimited bandwidth use. While they meant "use as much bandwidth as you like" they never specifically said that, so they no claim they didn't mean that and noone can proove otherwise. The claim is that it is unlimited compared to dial-up days when ISPs had to maintain a massive rack of modems so, particularly for cheap or free-call ISPs, you would have limits like "up to X hours per day" and "no session longer than X hours".

So while it can be said to be deceptive and dishonest, it doesn't actually breach truth-in-advertising laws (at least over here).

There is an ISP over here (Sky) making a big thing of actually offering "use as much bandwidth as you can", though there is more weaseling there - there is heavy protocol level traffic shaping which limitis how much you can actually use and there is still a "fair use policy" which is sufficiently vague that it could mean anything.

I pay good money for what is essentially a business account. It has a 300G limit, but that can carry over from month to month and if I go over (unlikely) and don't have any carry-over left from last month they'll just charge me a known rate for the extra (charging by byte, not in much larger blocks). That is the only way (here at least) you can get a proper, unfiltered, unshaped, un-anything-you-didn't-ask-for-ed connection. Pay for what you want and you have a chance of getting what you pay for.


I pay about £20/month for BE Unlimited and routinely burn through 500gb-1TB a month (like TFA I use multiple lossless codecs for media I've bought or produced, as well as using a series of permanently nailed up VPN connections for various things) without any problems. YMMV, but it's fine over here.


Yeah, I should have mentioned Be... I used them myself until a couple of weeks ago. I never pulled your 500G+ but I can say I never noticed any shaping or other artificial limits or significant congestion on those occasions I did pull many Gbs around in one go).

I've shifted over to an FTTC provider - 10Mbit upstream is nice to have especially coupled with as many IPv4 addresses as you can justify for nowt extra (only a /29 for me (all I need) but people get more - you just have to ask and promise to follow RIPE's allocation & use rules) and native IPv6, the upstream is unmetered like Be but not downstream.

Rumour has it Be will need some significant infrastructure updates to keep with that policy when they join the FTTC roll-out unless they make their FTTC based products uncompetitively expensive which they may not be able to afford to do.

The reason I picked Sky is that they are advertising the "unlimited" thing pretty aggressively on TV right now, and I know their network is shaped to buggery as are any other ISPs other than Be (that I know of) who offer "unlimited".

For people interested in Be (I'm happy to recommend them, even though I can no longer get a "referral" discount for doing so!) nip over to https://www.bethere.co.uk/


Your water and electricity utilities most likely also have caps on how much water or electricity you can use before they cut you off. Except if you go over a few times they won't ban you from their service for a year. They just want you to curb your use, which is exactly what this guy was willing to do.


Your water and electricity utilities most likely also have caps on how much water or electricity you can use before they cut you off.

Most utilities cannot just shut you off. Many states have laws that determine when and how. The biggest thing about a utility though is that you pay for usage. If you want to leave your lights on all day, they really don't care as long as you continue to pay your bill.

Personally, I don't see a problem with metered broadband, and only have a problem with the current pricing structures. Look at the mobile space to see how messed up it can be. Companies set prices at a usage level that is just below what a person really needs so they force people into the next tier with the hopes the person will not actually use it. Instead, I would support a flat rate per GB. I've seen numbers like $6/GB thrown around for mobile (it would obviously be a lot lower for line connected broadband, but you get the idea).

If we do end up with broadband treated as a utility in the US, I would bet that it will be metered and charged for usage. It's the most fair way to support the system and will naturally prevent people from doing something similar to leaving their lights on all day.


I'm not personally amazingly sympathetic. He uses his service for business purposes at home (as a consultant) - as he is perfectly entitled to do so.

If he had paid for a business class account, he'd be fine. I pay Comcast right on $100 a month for 22/8mbps, with 5 static IPs, no throttling, and no caps - I work from home and according to my firewall had approximately 800GB of traffic last month (and that usage is not out of the ordinary).


Does Comcast give people the option to upgrade if they exceed their cap? The whole situation would have been very different if Comcast told him he had to upgrade to $100/mo.


This is the main filing of Comcast. They should see this as an _opportunity_ to move a high value customer to a business plan.


Maybe they didn't offer that level of service in his area.


Business class is a level, it isn't based on area.


> It's the most fair way to support the system and will naturally prevent people from doing something similar to leaving their lights on all day.

Depends on what constraints the resource.

If the network's bandwidth isn't used at the moment, not using it won't save any money. (Apart from saving power.)


Many state utility commissions require multiple notifications written & verbal prior to turning off service.


$6/Gb on mobile? That would be wonderful compared to, let me check... $20/Mb that I just paid for checking google maps over AT&T roaming when lost in another country. Sigh.


I think the $6/GB came from the original unlimited plans in the US that were $30/month and had soft caps of 5GB. Pretty much all those plans have since disappeared.

The point is, I think most consumers are fine with metered data if they feel like it's mostly fair.


Virgin mobile has unlimited internet plans that start at $25 a month. I'm not sure what the soft cap is though. http://www.virginmobileusa.com/cell-phone-plans/beyond-talk-...


On an iphone at least, I cache the maps for the area I'm going to be in, then switch to airplane mode with location services turned on. Free, international GPS.


Cache them using what app? Because google maps won't cache a whole city for me, certainly not at street level zoom.


No, definitely not the whole city. I can usually cache strategic bits between wifi hotspots though, which gets me by.


To be clear, though: Water and Electric utilities in the US (and I believe this is true of Canada) are also heavily regulated, including the requirement of a government approved meter that measures in a consistent and accurate manner. In addition, one pays based on what one consumes at rates that are at least partially controlled by another regulatory body. In our area, this is the case because there we have no choice to use a different electricity or natural gas provider. The same could be said about our options for broadband service, except that it lacks the same oversight. As a result, municipalities that have AT&T, Wide Open West, Comcast and a variety of less-fast DSL options have significantly better "specials" and even service options. I, for instance, can subscribe to Comcast Business service, whereas my parents a few cities over, where Comcast is the only reasonable choice, can only use their residential option.

I agree, it's not a right, but I think the author is correct in stating that Internet access is an essential utility.


One should add that it's ridiculous that Comcast counts 250gb transferred up or down, since almost all of their customer related information refers to down speeds.


At least in Canada, there are rules governing when the electricity company can cut you off. To oversimplify, you cannot be cut off during winter.


I'm in the Maritimes and I also believe that is correct a person cannot have their power shut off not only in the winter but anytime without at least 30 days notice.

But I think winter certainly adds to the drama, for example cutting off the power to a home when it's -20C outside would be a death sentence if the home was electrically heated.


Really? Can you point to a link about this? I'd love to see what the rules actually say.

NOTE: What I wrote above sounds kind of confrontational - it's not. Badly worded, yes, but I believe you and am actually interested in seeing the rules.


It looks like you were right to be confrontational. According to Google, that was a temporary moratorium that has expired: http://www.ontariotenants.ca/electricity/articles/2004/ltw04...

It's certainly a common misconception. I certainly know that people in the "which bill do I pay this month" scenario often choose to hold off on paying Hydro during the winter. It's also quite likely that Hydro is less likely to disconnect during the Winter. Frozen water pipes can cause a lot of damage...


To be clear Ontario residents (really just in the GTA) refer to electricity as 'Hydro' because most(?) of it comes from the hydro-electric plant near Niagara Falls, and the company is called Toronto Hydro. Personally, whenever someone refers to the 'hydro bill' I have to internally connect the dots that it's not the water bill.

In this case, it's even less clear to those not in the know, because the next sentence refers to water pipes.


Not just Toronto. Out west we get our power from BC Hydro. Covers the whole province.


I used to work for the gas company (ATCO) in Alberta. It was an informal rule, but they wouldn't shut you off during the winter for an unpaid bill. I don't believe there was any law to compel them, but it's bad PR to destroy homes and potentially kill people over a few hundred dollars. They know you're ultimately going to have to pay the bill come summertime.



>Your water and electricity utilities most likely also have caps on how much water or electricity you can use before they cut you off.

They do? Where is this the case?

My water and electricity usage have no monthly cap and are only shut off if I fail to pay the bills.


Your electric utility service is capped, but they use a different method because electric utilities are metered. You have a fixed capacity feed to your house. For example, our home has 150 amp service. I cannot exceed that draw or the main feed breaker trips and everything goes dark. I can request installation of a larger feed, but I have to pay the build-out, and there are hard limits based on my local zoning.

One thing is certain, in no way do I have "unlimited" electricity available at my home.

Contrast this to your ISP. Say they deliver a 15/3 mbps (down/up) service to your home. The actual data transfer usage isn't metered (you pay a fixed price), but there is a cap for residential service. The reason for the cap is that Comcast has to make arrangements for transfer of that data to its destination, which will cross over in to other carrier's networks. Many of these agreements are made on trade between carriers, but if there is an imbalance, Comcast has to pay.

The only alternative is metered transfer. If you had a commercial grade internet connection, you'd already pay based on two factors (sometimes more):

    * Available bandwidth
    * Data transfer
    * (Sometimes) Port capability
For example, if you get metro ethernet service that is capable of 100 mbps, you might pay a 100 mbps port charge. You can order only a fraction of that bandwidth however; say, 20 mbps. Along with that, you'll pay a data transfer allowance; usually purchased in buckets. You can scale this to your need.

Businesses make this decision based on a profile of their usage. Do they need to transfer lots of data at a relatively slow (but consistent) rate? Or do they need to transfer large chunks of data periodically, but very quickly? Maybe they need to transfer lots of data really fast?

Residential customers don't want to think about this. They want to pay a fee and receive service. Comcast built a product around the profile of typical consumer usage. If you go outside that, you get business service, which means you pay for what you use.

This whole notion that unlimited internet for $60/month is some kind of "right" is just preposterous.


> Your electric utility service is capped, but they use a different method because electric utilities are metered. You have a fixed capacity feed to your house. For example, our home has 150 amp service. I cannot exceed that draw or the main feed breaker trips and everything goes dark. I can request installation of a larger feed, but I have to pay the build-out, and there are hard limits based on my local zoning.

> One thing is certain, in no way do I have "unlimited" electricity available at my home.

By that metric, uncapped data is not unlimited, and thus does not need a cap.

> This whole notion that unlimited internet for $60/month is some kind of "right" is just preposterous.

It's not unlimited since it's (by your own account) 15/3. That's a limitation right there, identical to your 150 amp service. And you can not exceed that limit period (you won't even get close to it, really). No need for a breaker.


> It's not unlimited since it's (by your own account) 15/3. That's a limitation right there, identical to your 150 amp service. And you can not exceed that limit period (you won't even get close to it, really). No need for a breaker.

It is one form of limitation, but it is not the most relevant.

The point is that Comcast has to pay for the transfer of data in and out of their network. So they have two choices:

* Meter your data transfer and charge a base fee for available bandwidth (just like commercial usage)

* Throttle your bandwidth so that you cannot exceed a set monthly transfer amount

Do you really want either? I don't. Assuming you want the later option, here's the breakdown:

250 GB -> 2,000 Gb (gigabits)

There are 2,678,400 seconds in a month.

2,000 Gb per 2,678,400 seconds

Reduced is: 0.0007467145 Gb per 1 second

Multiply by a factor of 1,048,576 (kilobits in a gigabit) and you get: 782.9868578256 kbps

To cap you at 250 GB per month (which their model is built around), you'd end up with an internet connection that is roughly the speed of an entry-level DSL connection (768 kbps DSL).

Does that make any sense to anyone? You can't simply wash away the cost of transferring the data in and out of their network with some government mandate.

The other option is to pay for metered bandwidth. This means the additional overhead of metering each customer, as well as the additional billing infrastructure. Not an impossible problem, but it's a lot of data to track, and the overhead is undeniable, so you'll end up getting more for less.

OR!

We could all cooperate and agree that there is a "typical" consumer use case with a soft ceiling of 250 GB of transfer per month. If can't operate within that ceiling, you should look in to a business-class connection where the pricing models fit your needs better.


All tier 1 ISPs have peering agreements where most pay nothing for traffic transfer. The real costs are the equipment, ISPs use statistical multiplexing to maximize the value of their lines and switches. Data caps only affect this indirectly, it is bandwidth that matters. If an ISPs' equipment can only handle 10Gb/s of bandwidth without degrading that is the real limit, the total amount of data a month is mostly immaterial. Simply put if everyone used up their data cap on the first day of the month the ISP could not handle it even though no one went over their cap.


I wonder how small ISPs like those in my country can afford to provide at least 500GB/month at 30Mbps for about $60. On the other hand, I do have about four other ISPs I can switch to, maybe that influences it?


> On the other hand, I do have about four other ISPs I can switch to, maybe that influences it?

Real competition, yes, that is the big influence. Sadly, in way to many locations in the US, one's broadband choices are limited to one or two providers.

If every location where Comcast operated broadband service there were four other equivalent providers of the same service, they would not ever think of cutting someone off for a year or limiting them to 250G/month of up+down transfers. These kinds of tactics are what monopolies do, simply because they can.


Please, if you're going to bury my comment, point out what I've misstated. If you're sitting there in your chair, disagreeing with me, but you can't figure out why, you're just lying to yourself.

If I've made a mathematical error, or misstated a fact, I'm happy to concede the point.


You say that metered, per-byte billing will impose a significant overhead. For ISPs that already have caps, they are already counting the bytes, so the only overhead would be in the variable billing. Half of the ISPs already do that for their non-IP services.

You also haven't said how much it costs a company like Comcast to pay for transit of their customers' data. You haven't given anyone reason to believe that transit actually is the dominant cost to a residential ISP.


You make a good point about already counting the bytes. That fact flew right past me when I was considering the overhead.

I can't answer the second question because I can't see Comcast's peering agreements. I do know that they're not always comfortable (see last year's Comcast/Level 3 dispute), but as the FCC pointed out, peering agreements are a private matter.

I'm playing devil's advocate here to some degree. I get that everyone wants to see an improvement in the availability and cost of broadband in the states. No question about it, but this article is about a person who used 250 GB of data in a month on a residential connection. I'd love too see a histogram that shows the distribution of data transfer usage per customer, but Comcast doesn't publish that information, so I'm left to assume that the fact that very few people encounter that limit is proof that it's pretty far above the norm. Feeding the sense of entitlement that this type of usage should be allowed is not how we'll make progress here.


> If you go outside that, you get business service,

Actually in this case you get banned for a year without recourse.

It baffles me why they didn't just try to upsell the guy.


Possibly because their business service has a lot more competition than their residential service, hence lower margins.

Comcast business service is actually a bargain, at least around here. You pay maybe $15-$20/month more than you would for bare-bones residential service, you get to run servers if you want, suck down all the Netflix you can watch, and you get instant access to US-based tech support. Also, my understanding is that the various MAFIAA BitTorrent enforcers avoid targeting business-class IP ranges because unlike Grandma in her basement, businesses tend to put up a fight.

I wouldn't even think about going back to a residential account at this point. Given my household's usage patterns, I can't imagine Comcast makes any more money off of me than they would if I had a residential account, so I wouldn't expect them to upsell me aggressively if they were otherwise trying to get rid of me.


If you have a 100 amp power feed, then you should be able to use up to 100 amps. If you have a 100Mbit feed, you should be able to use up to 100Mbits.

The big difference between electricity and bandwidth is that electricity has to be produced and this involves considerable expense. Bandwidth is always there so long as the equipment is powered on, which ends up being a marginal cost in the scheme of things.

Look at how power is priced: $/KWH. Bandwidth is priced at $/Gbit. Not Gbyte, but Gbit. You pay for capacity and usage comes along for free.


You're confusing the last mile transmission capability with the cost of transferring the data in and out of the network.

Let's say you and I go in to business together and build a microwave wireless internet service. There is commodity equipment available that can push 100 mbps pretty easily. We buy a microwave transmission tower and central office from a company that is going out of business at a rate that cannot be beat. We price out our customer premises equipment so that we make half our money back on the setup fee, so setup costs are minimal.

We're now ready for business. We can provide 100 mbps internet service to customers with minimal equipment cost. Sweet!

Here's the rub. Unless our customers are content to transfer data only between themselves, we're going to need some outside connectivity. We need to peer with all the major networks. So we try to set up peering agreements with ATT, Level 3, and UUNet. The problem is, they have no need to transmit data over our networks, so we have a huge imbalance. We have to pay for every single bit our customers transmit.

It's time to rethink our 100 mbps bandwidth policy, is it not?

Just because we can transmit at 100 mbps to the customer, doesn't mean we can afford for them to use all that bandwidth all the time. There is a cost associated with transferring data over partner networks, and someone has to pay that cost. Comcast's residential pricing model does so in a way that is dead simple for consumers. If you don't fit that model, you should purchase business service.


We have to pay for every single bit our customers transmit.

What about all the bits your customers receive? You sound like you're at least somewhat familiar with peering agreements, so I'd like to know how that part works. If your customers are mostly receiving instead of sending, wouldn't those bits be paid for by the ones sending the bits?

For that matter, why can I get 200GB/mo at 50mbit/s plus a server for $20 from a VPS provider, and $.15/GB beyond that ($.10 if purchased in advance in the case of Linode)? Why do consumer ISPs need to charge so much more?

Based on your arguments in this and other posts, they have caps because they have to pay for the outgoing bandwidth. Why not just charge $.15/GB over the cap? Last mile infrastructure doesn't account for the difference, since it has a mostly fixed cost of construction and operation. Interfering with other oversubscribed customers can't explain it either, since everyone gets a fair and equal share of the pipe when the pipe is overloaded.


You're definitely making the best counter points in this discussion. Unfortunately, I'm only familiar with peering agreements in so much that I can read about them on Wikepedia and follow links. The peering agreements are private, so we don't know who pays who.

Your questions regarding the fees for bandwidth are especially relevant. More things I can't address, because I don't know Comcast's costs for transport or last mile.

When I say that consumers won't/don't want a metered internet plan, I'm basing this on what's in the market and basic consumer tendencies toward simplicity. Metered services have a tendency to make customers feel "nickel & dime'd". Put plainly, consumers will choose a flat rate service over a metered service, even if the metered service would result in a lower bill [1]. It's basic risk aversion.

I'm of the opinion that "free market" ISP solutions aren't working out all that well. The necessity of public land-use rights in order to reach the last mile severely limits competition in the ISP space. I think that a good first step toward fixing the problem would be forcing some more transparency on ISPs. I'd love to know what's going on behind closed doors. I'd love to know who pays who. I'd love to know just how Comcast's transport costs break down.

Until we know some of these details, it's mostly speculation (yes, especially on my part), but I think there are some reasonable assumptions to be made.

1 - http://www.canavents.com/its2008/abstracts/109.pdf


For that matter, why can I get 200GB/mo at 50mbit/s plus a server for $20 from a VPS provider, and $.15/GB beyond that ($.10 if purchased in advance in the case of Linode)? Why do consumer ISPs need to charge so much more?

The ISP has to maintain and upgrade thousands of miles of physical plant to deliver data to customer's homes in the geographic regions they cover. For a typical cable ISP for instance there's about 3-5 miles of copper between your modem and the the fiber node and typically dozens of miles between the fiber node and the provider's headend/datacenter where they uplink to the Internet -- which incidentally for smaller rural ISPs may itself be hundreds of miles away from competitive rates on data. Going back to the cost of maintaing/upgrading the infrastructure a small plant of only ~1000 miles typically requires at least a dozen full time employees simply to maintain it day to day and that's not including things like management, network engineers, customer service, technical support, equipment, contracted labour, customer installation, etc. On top of that you've got the cost of leasing access to the poles/underground conduits and the cost of powering the 3-5 miles of plant plus whatever operational costs you have to put gas into your fleet of vehicles, the cost of the vehicles themselves, insurance, etc. When you put this all together you're looking at some pretty huge overhead on the consumer side of Internet access plus whatever profit the company wants to make to justify all of the above. It's not a charity after all.


That still doesn't justify the 250GB cap. Once the line is installed and maintained, using it more or less doesn't change the cost of installing and maintaining it. At that point we're talking about bulk bandwidth, which if you live in a metropolitan area, cannot cost significantly more than what Linode is charging.


In the case of cable Internet you're dealing with a shared medium.

Your ISP may have a 10Gbit uplink in their headend but that does not extend to your home. In reality with 4 channel DOCSIS 3 bonding the speed available "on-the-wire" is about ~150Mbit/sec and it's shared between about 200 customers at minimum. (in reality it's usually a lot closer to 300-500 customers) So if 15 customers out of the 200 want to use 10Mbit/sec 24x7 there is no bandwidth left over for the other 190 customers.

Just to be clear this part is not strictly an infrastructure challenge as the physical cable plant is not inherently limited to ~150Mbit/sec. It simply depends how many DOCSIS channels are being sent out and how many customers share them. They originate from a CMTS in the provider's headend. A fully loaded CMTS sets you back about $500-$750k. So cable ISPs figured out capping data can save them quite a lot of money. The alternative is a) they make less money b) they charge the customer more. We know A certainly isn't going to happen in a non-competitive market and B is something most customers would not like so we get c) capping.

Telco or FTTH are a completely different beast though. Much harder to justify capping there. For telco it's usually because there is a limited uplink to the DSLAM. As of a few years ago it was not uncommon to have a few T1s feeding a DSLAM. FTTH is rarely capped because the fiber that goes to your home is capable of pushing 10Gbit/sec with the right optics. WISPS have the same issue as cable -- in fact WiMAX is very similar to DOCSIS and some WISPs actually do use DOCSIS over wireless at 10Ghz.


In the case of cable Internet you're dealing with a shared medium.

Your ISP may have a 10Gbit uplink in their headend but that does not extend to your home. In reality with 4 channel DOCSIS 3 bonding the speed available "on-the-wire" is about ~150Mbit/sec and it's shared between about 200 customers at minimum. (in reality it's usually a lot closer to 300-500 customers) So if 15 customers out of the 200 want to use 10Mbit/sec 24x7 there is no bandwidth left over for the other 190 customers.

I realize that the cable is shared, but remain unconvinced that a flat cap is in any way better than other solutions (such as dividing available bandwidth proportionally among active users, with higher-paying customers getting a larger slice). It shouldn't matter if someone's using their 10mbit/s 24/7, it should only matter if they're using it during peak hours. On the flip side, the "average" user who wants to stream Hulu, Youtube, and Netflix is likely to be doing their streaming at the same time as most other customers, causing more degradation to other customers' experience per hour of usage than the heavy downloaders. Capping the heavy users doesn't change the fact that the average users all want to stream video at the same time.

Also, how can the cable company possibly offer me the 50+mbit/s connection for which I currently pay over $100/mo if the 4 256-QAM downstream channels (totaling ~150mbit/s as you said) are shared by so many customers? Those channels only use 24MHz of the total spectrum.


I agree the flat cap isn't going to be the end of this. It just happens to be the easiest solution right now and the heavy users are low hanging fruit.

As for the 50Mbit on a 150Mbit bonding group -- that's he magic of oversubscription. It's amazing how little bandwidth people actually use. The number of heavy users who are doing 50Mbit/sec non-stop are really the fringe cases. It's actually quite hard to figure out how to max out a 50 or 100mbit/sec for long periods of time. The traffic patterns are extremely bursty. For example a single uncapped modem's traffic. (in MB/sec)

http://i.imgur.com/KL1YD.png

(120Mbit/sec is the bottleneck of my router)


I think you're confused about the difference between Gbit and Gbyte. One Gbyte is eight Gbits.


I think the confusion may actually stem from the fact that the OP intended Gbit to be Gbit/s (a rate, not a quantity).


Your electric utility service is capped, but they use a different method because electric utilities are metered. You have a fixed capacity feed to your house. For example, our home has 150 amp service. I cannot exceed that draw or the main feed breaker trips and everything goes dark. I can request installation of a larger feed, but I have to pay the build-out, and there are hard limits based on my local zoning.

One thing is certain, in no way do I have "unlimited" electricity available at my home.

That's not a cap, that's a throughput limitation, just like with an ISP. I'd be surprised if they stopped you from using your full 36kW 24/7 for a month as long as you were paying your $4k electric bill on time.

The reason for the cap is that Comcast has to make arrangements for transfer of that data to its destination, which will cross over in to other carrier's networks. Many of these agreements are made on trade between carriers, but if there is an imbalance, Comcast has to pay.

How does this square with Comcast charging Netflix for access to its customers? If Netflix is paying for the bandwidth, why do the customers have to pay as well?

The only alternative is metered transfer.

I think most people would be happy with metered transfer, but only if it is perfectly transparent and out of the control of the big media and pay TV companies. The metered price would have to reflect the decreasing costs of providing bandwidth, peering agreements would have to be open to public scrutiny, etc. The metered cost should start at something like $.10/GB and decrease over time, with a $5/mo connection fee to cover the amortized installation costs. There could be no allowance for ridiculous overage fees or total transfer caps.


> Your electric utility service is capped, but they use a different method because electric utilities are metered. You have a fixed capacity feed to your house. For example, our home has 150 amp service. I cannot exceed that draw or the main feed breaker trips and everything goes dark. I can request installation of a larger feed, but I have to pay the build-out, and there are hard limits based on my local zoning.

It sounds like the analogy here would be having an internet connection that has a maximum throughput of X. If you want X+Y, where Y is larger than zero, then you would have to buy a larger throughput connection. Once that's done, you'd be free to use it as much as you want, provided you pay for that usage.

That doesn't seem to be the case in the linked article here.


You're correct in your representation of the differences in the model, but I'm not sure anyone really wants the utility model. They might think they do, but they haven't done the math.

If Comcast has built a business around a 250 GB/month cap, they'd have to throttle your connection to 783 kbps to keep you under that cap (assuming you used your maximum connection all the time).


This whole notion that unlimited internet for $60/month is some kind of "right" is just preposterous.

That call is not yours to make. It was Comcast's to make, before they advertised exactly that. In the US, the Federal Trade Commission frowns on false advertising.


My friend had some kind of washer hose burst in his house when he was away for the weekend. The damage was minimal (it was in his unfinished basement) but the water company, detecting a large amount of water being used, came by and shut his water off.

"Oh but that's different" - not really. Same thing would have happened if my friend was intentionally trying to fill his basement with water.


I suspect that would not have been a problem. The water company guy rings at your friends door:

Water Company Guy: "Just checking, we think there might be a burst pipe around here somewhere. Have you noticed some flooding?"

Your friend: "No. I'm just filling up my pool however, but everything is fine."

Company guy: "Ah, ok. Excellent. Have a nice day!"


Well it was a couple years ago, but I do remember specifically that they didn't even call him. He actually realized there was no water before he discovered that his basement was damp and eventually figured it out. It could be that they knocked on his door, and; receiving no answer, assumed it was a leak.

Anyway this would be an easy question to answer if someone called a water utility and asked.


I was cleaning and fixing up a house after its owner had died. One of the first things I did was arrange to get the water turned back on, but it took two tries, because the first time the man who connected it turned it back off because water was running immediately--I had not closed the valve to the water heater which started filling.


They are good like that.


> "Oh but that's different" - not really. Same thing would have happened if my friend was intentionally trying to fill his basement with water.

Sure, but if he called and stated that, they'd likely turn it back on and bill him for the usage.


What about a pool?


(not relevant to the article, but...) when you fill a pool, generally you call the water company and they'll hook a meter to a fire hydrant. This will fill a lot faster then a 1" home service, and you also won't be charged for sewer as well as the water. This can save significant money, since, at least where I live, sewer fees are about 8x the actual water cost.


The only example, which is kind of spurious, that comes to mind is drought in Texas - if you're watering your lawn during a drought, or decide to fill up your empty pool, I believe that there are actual legal consequences.


True, though I believe that in most jurisdictions that's just a normal law, done separately from the utility company. In states where rules about watering during a drought are legally enforceable, if you're caught watering your lawn when you aren't allowed to, you get issued a ticket/fine from the local police, not from the water company.


They are not likely to turn you off, but are likely to stop by and write you a ticket for violating the water usage ordinance.


There is no analogy to internet use. It's not a scarce resource.


Bandwidth certainly is a scarce resource as is the equipment needed to support it. Fiber doesn't just magically appear in the ground. Switches don't grow on your street corner. These things have to be paid for and maintained. It only makes sense that the highest users pay for more for the infrastructure. It's the current pricing schemes that I have a problem with.


Typically it is not. It's not unlimited, but a scarce resource is one of which there is simply not enough to go around.

With cable modem pooling it can approach scarce resource status, but typically your modem does not "run out of bandwidth".


That's the throughput, though (which was always capped, in Mbps) not the amount of data. The latter is unlimited.

They're limiting the amount of data not because it's scarce, but because that forces people to limit their throughput - since if you use at the max levels, it'd reach the data caps in no time - because they're overselling too much and don't want to pay for the infrastructure upgrade.


Years ago, in college, my fraternity house used an "excessive" amount of electricity in one month. The power company told us that if we continued at that rate of usage, then they'd have to switch us to a business plan (for which, apparently, the per-kWh charge is higher).


My water and electricity utilities charge per gallon and kilowatt-hours, respectively.

Comcast does not charge by the megabyte.

Instead, it is all you can eat, until Comcast says that is all you can eat.

This guy was actually using his residential account for business purposes.


"Instead, it is all you can eat, until Comcast says that is all you can eat."

No. A year or two ago, Comcast clarified their position on bandwidth usage as allowing you to use 250GB a month. This is now visible on their account, although I always have to poke around to get it: After logging in at comcast.com, go to the Users and Settings tab and look in the middle column. There's a link there to click that will let you look at your last three months history. I have 16GB in April, 80 in May, 57 in June, and 7 on my current billing cycle. They no longer advertise "all you can eat" and you are provided tools to see what is going on.

It is still bizarre to me that you can't pay for more usage, and you are free to disagree with the policy in philosophy or in detail, or to be annoyed at how much brow-beating it took to get Comcast to this point, but they are no longer just randomly cutting you off when you silently cross an arbitrary standard. It is now cutting you off when you cross a public threshold, and you can easily see where they think you are in the month.


But it is very very easy to go over 250GB in a DAY, let alone a month.

250GB ÷ 15MB/sec = 4 hours 36 minutes

Doesn't it seem a little odd that you can blow through an entire month's service in less than a day?


Other comment - 250GB/month is less than 800Kb/sec. Cheap DSL is faster. Hulu uses 1Mb/sec. If you are one of those people who like a TV playing in the background, you can go over your cap just from running free television 24x7.


And why can't you pay $60 for the next 250 GB?


> This guy was actually using his residential account for business purposes.

1. so what? Should every telecommuter get a business SDSL?

2. his consulting business is not the reason why he went overcap, hobbies and personal matter are


He is not a telecommuter. He states:

"I work as a entertainment industry consultant, and depend on cloud services such as Dropbox, Simplenote, Google Apps, and Google Docs for day to day work. I use streaming online services such as Netflix, Xbox Live, Playstation Network, and Pandora every day for both work and play."

Not sure where you get SDSL from cable modems, either.


> He is not a telecommuter.

Irrelevant. You imply, bordering on asserting, that using residential accounts for business purpose. That's precisely what telecommuters do.

So I ask again: should every telecommuter get a business line?

Furthermore he's using the same line for business and private use, should he get two different accounts? Should every telecommuter in the world get two different accounts to please you?

Finally, do you know for sure Comcast does not have the same kind of limitations on their business accounts than they do on their non-business accounts?


Both of these utilities have sliding scales (at where I've lived in California) which become punitive at higher levels. Comcast could do that same as long as they provided reasonable visibility.


The UN recently proposed that Internet access be a human right.[1]

[1] http://www.wired.com/threatlevel/2011/06/internet-a-human-ri...


Agreed.

A better way of putting this would be "electronic access to the world web of information and services is becoming an extension of our brains, and as such some degree of connectivity should be considered a public commons that the government is required to provide to each citizen, much the same as parkland, airspace, or waterways."

This implies that some parts of infrastructure are private (personal access devices), some parts are public (perhaps a limited amount of bandwidth donated to the public in return for use of the airwaves), and some are commercial (the infrastructure from the ISP to the rest of the net).

Each segment in this scheme has special needs, responsibilities, and privileges. Using the word "right" as a blanket statement doesn't cut it -- it begins to substitute ranting for reasoning. I sympathize with the author, but their problem is lack of competition, not abuse of their rights.


Sorry, Comcast has been handed a monopoly franchise for broadband in many parts of the US, including Seattle. With their obscene profits comes an obligation to provide acceptable service in all reasonable cases. This is not an equal bargain between two independent parties -- the OP has ZERO alternative broadband providers and the real battle Comcast is fighting is against Netflix.


Sorry, but Qwest and Clearwire both cover nearly all of Seattle as well. You can argue about how broad you have to be to be called broadband, but they are both going to be suitable for a home user.


I have Qwest because Comcast can't provide reliable service to my 1920s apartment building, and I only get 2.6 Mbps down. I wouldn't think I'd have to explain on HN why that's not a viable alternative. It's certainly not for the OP's use case of streaming video.


I listened to him read his canned warning that if I exceeded their cap again I'd be cut off again.

Ok. Sure, the data cap sucks, but this guy broke a Comcast policy, got a warning, and then broke the policy again. I'm not surprised he got cut off.

I do not recall details on how long the cut off would be, likely because I spent the next few minutes working with the service agent to add notes to my record about my detailed displeasure with Comcast's policy here. I specifically noted (and asked that it be recorded) that if this happened again I would contact the FCC, various news organizations, and otherwise make a stink. The CS agent was polite and reactivated my broadband.

Wha? Why would the FCC or news orgs care that you exceeded your broadband cap? And why are you threatening the service rep?

This whole thing stinks of irresponsibility and entitlement. This guy ignored or didn't care about the whole data caps thing (which was announced a long time ago), didn't pay attention to his warning from Comcast, and now he got burned by it and suddenly decides unlimited broadband is his right. Too late.


Actually if you read his post from a day ago, you will see him state he stopped the open access point. He took steps to stop what he thought was the issue. It was not until the cap was broken a second time that he realized it was his backup system uploading to a 3rd party service.

That is not entitlement at all. If anything it was ignorance of the fact that your upload data is also measured against the cap.

I agree with him about going to the FCC. The fact that he has no where to turn to purchase a competing service means that Comcast can dictate peoples internet usage behavior. My question would be is does the 250g data cap apply when they are watching TV/Movies online via Comcast (XFinity) provided services?


That is not entitlement at all. If anything it was ignorance of the fact that your upload data is also measured against the cap.

This. I would never have guessed upstream was counted. I thought this was only about downstream bandwidth.


I have a hard time accepting this fact. Yes, you might not know upload count, but reading Comcast's AUP, it states:

    >> Common activities that may cause excessive data consumption in violation of this Policy include, but are not limited to, 
    numerous or continuous bulk transfers of files and other high capacity traffic using 
        (i) file transfer protocol (“FTP”), 
        (ii) peer-to-peer applications, and 
        (iii) newsgroups.
This seems to be exactly what the person who wrote the article was complaining about.

And in a world where we no longer have unlimited data plans on our phones; I am suprised people forget about the data used while uploading...

Updated: formatting and clairification.


My question would be is does the 250g data cap apply when they are watching TV/Movies online via Comcast (XFinity) provided services?

Of course not, nor Comcast's VOIP service.


Watching the xfinity tv/news service definitely counts towards the cap, but xfinity voice is a completely separate service - and doesn't count.


But if you used Vonage it would count? Same type of service, different application of rules.


Yes.


>My question would be is does the 250g data cap apply when they are watching TV/Movies online via Comcast (XFinity) provided services?

Yes it does. But, of course it doesn't apply to the On Demand services on Comcast Cable, which is where they want to push customers at.


This. Combined with the power of local carrier monopolies, it's exactly the reason we need net neutrality.


I appreciate your opinion but I downvoted you because you said "This."

The "This." meme contributes nothing to the post and is the worst kind of contentless bandwagonism.

"This." is lazy and degrades the quality of the site in general.


I'm not going to downvote you, but that's an incredibly stupid reason to downvote someone.

"Oh, I don't like your word choice, so I'm going to downvote you regardless of the content."


I don't know... HN has a history of actively downvoting memes. I don't know if 'This.' qualifies as a meme or not, but it's a valid sentiment.

Then again, if you are replying "This." perhaps the better way to go would be with a simple upvote. But that would really only be expressive if we could see vote counts again.


My point was that "this. <explanation and clarification>" does not deserve a downvote (should get an upvote), because it has actual content.

However, a content-free message of simply "this." does deserve a downvote.


The issue isn't "word choice" it is tone and writing style.

Writing in leetspeek is equally objectionable, for instance, and people do downvote those who write that way on HN.

Explaining yourself and adding an original thought is contributing, but saying "This." is not contributing and degrades the quality of the post and HN in general.


  > The issue isn't "word choice" it is tone and writing style.
Forgive me, my vocabulary failed me when I was writing that particular sentence.

  > Writing in leetspeek is equally objectionable, for instance, and people do downvote those who write that way on HN.
Good point, although leetspeak kills readability, whereas "this." is just a way to say "yes, I agree with you.".

In my opinion, a comment that is simply "this." should get no votes at all, whereas a comment that is entirely in leetspeak should be downvoted into oblivion. Killing readability is a far greater sin than simply failing to realize that the upvote button exists for a reason.


How does "Combined with the power of local carrier monopolies, it's exactly the reason we need net neutrality." not qualify as explanation/original thought?


How is "This." different than "Exactly." and other expressions of agreement in spoken English?

It might not bring new information, but it tells the reader that the rest of the post should be read in a context of agreement with the parent post, so it's useful.


Perhaps if he was more civil with the service reps and just explained the mistake he would have been given a reprieve. Regardless, it doesn't sound like he's willing to cut back his data use.


Yeah, maybe if he bought them a cake and rented a hooker, everything would be peachy!


Comcast refused to work with him, even though he was willing and motivated to address the problem. Even after being careful with bandwidth and disabling his public access point, they still cut him off for a year with no appeal.

This mirrors what happened to me. I was given an automated warning. I called the security number but they wouldn't tell me what sort of traffic I should be looking for. They didn't even have a bandwidth meter rolled out in my area at the time! I had to guess what my bandwidth usage was for the next few months. I even called to make sure that I was under the cap, but they wouldn't tell me anything at all. "I'm sure you're fine" the rep said. And then they cut me off. (Turns out it was a misconfigured bittorrent client, but at least I knew that upload counted toward the cap.) I at least managed to switch to a business account, which isn't too much more expensive and has no cap. Last month I pushed over 1TB, no complaints.


"...at least managed to switch to a business account, which isn't too much more expensive and has no cap."

Down here we've got Cox, with the same 250GB cap, and business accounts are literally $180 per month more expensive than the residential accounts. I pay $69.99 at home and $250.00 at the office for the exact same service.


If you got two cables to your house, you could pay $140 with a 500GB limit :)


http://ww2.cox.com/aboutus/policies/limitations.cox Full list of Cox's limitations by area. If available in your area, you can get the Premier service, which has a higher transfer cap.


He admitted that he uploaded terabytes of data. That's not being "careful". Comcast has had data caps for quite some time now. There's quite literally no excuse for not knowing that upstream bandwidth also counts.


>Comcast refused to work with him, even though he was willing and motivated to address the problem. Even after being careful with bandwidth and disabling his public access point, they still cut him off for a year with no appeal.

He obviously wasn't that careful. There are dozens of apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux that can tell you how much bandwidth you're using; it's trivial to set one up, watch your throughput, and start killing off apps until you see what's doing all the work.

He seems to be technically-minded enough to understand core concepts, so why wouldn't he understand that uploading all of his content (his images, his music, etc.) to the cloud is going to use up his bandwidth? It seems obvious to me.


> There are dozens of apps on Windows, Mac, and Linux that can tell you how much bandwidth you're using

Sure, for that machine. So I suppose he could go out and bet a new box, set it up as the router, and then monitor traffic.

Just like I have to install my own electric meter... wait. Or like how I have to install my own flow measuring va... wait again.


Most wireless routers offer some version of this feature, its not too difficult to use.

My newish (~$100) Netgear wireless router actually has a Traffic Meter feature which monitors my traffic on a monthly basis and can warn me when I get close to nearing that cap. Its a worthwhile investment if you're being warned about your traffic.


Most wireless routers offer some version of this feature, its not too difficult to use.

Really? I've never seen one that has it, and I highly doubt the feature was introduced before these data caps became a problem. Even if most wireless routers have the feature, I doubt most people find it "not too difficult to use." My parents, for example, can't even be bothered to learn to use the scheduling feature of their own recently-purchased router (which does not have a traffic meter).


Amazing how generational differences manifest themselves. I certainly wouldn't dream of using a scheduling feature of a router (routers have scheduling? didn't know that, thought routers routed traffic). My parents, now deceased, barely knew what computers were.


Indeed. Once upon a time I helped my grandmother migrate from DOS 3.3 on an XT clone (8MHz!) to Windows 95 on a 100MHz 486. Things that seemed obvious to me were a significant struggle for her, but being the intelligent woman she was, she managed to pick it up and excel.

As for the router's scheduling feature, it's for scheduling routing rules, so certain computers can't access certain destinations during certain hours. I've no use for it in my own house, but I think it would solve a particular use case for my parents, if only they'd be willing to use it.


Did your router logs show high bandwidth useage? (If your router has good reporting tools).


The router I had at the time didn't have reporting, but my new one shows I've used almost 250 GB so far this month. I'd guess about half of that is bittorrent. Last month's 1TB was mostly BT.


The problem isn't comcast's policies themselves, it's the monopoly situation. And that seems like an FCC situation to me.


Assuming Comcast is the only ISP in his area, can he sign up for a Comcast business account? It appears he doesn't just want his account reinstated but he expects unlimited data use.


I was in the exact same situation this guy was in (except they hadn't cut my service yet), and this is exactly what I did. There is no cap for Business Class Internet and the Customer Service is MUCH better. On top of that, you can get Static IPs that you cannot get with a residential account.


I investigated Comcast Business Class in my area, and the contract I was offered was totally outrageous. The worst clause was early termination, where they claim 75% of the cost of the service for the rest of the contract (1yr, 2yr or 3yr) even when the service was terminated. I re-evaluated my needs and realized with cheap VPS proxies and smarthosts, I could do just fine with one dynamic IP. My contract is simple month to month. From my research, it seems that Business Class has a soft limit of 750GB, too, though apparently not enforced. If you want to have some fun, take the standard Comcast Business Class contract, find the Comcast URL that they include by reference about terms of service and bandwidth usage policies, find the 800 number referenced on those pages to obtain the actual documents, and enjoy the totally blank response you get from the drone that answers that phone number. If you have ever actually obtained the Business Class policy documents referred to in their contract, I'd love to get a copy. (Yes, I actually read their 14 page terms of service. The few, the proud...)


The problem may also be that Comcast (and a few other cable ISPs) may refuse to give someone in a residential area a Business account. In my area they refuse to do it ostensibly for zoning issues (which really have nothing to do with it). It's one of the big reasons that I do not use any of the online backup places.


This surprises me. When I had Comcast Business Cable installed at my home, the telephone rep got the install address, paused a moment, asked, "Is that a residential house?". I said yes, and all was fine. No raised eyebrows from the installer either.

In fact, my boss/company owner, who lives outside Scottsdale, who can't get more than 144kbps IDSL got so sick of things that he ordered a first, then a second bonded T1 to his house, without any hiccups.


If I had to guess what the actual issue is; I think my neighbourhood is connected to some rather old copper lines and they can't make the kind of reliability guarantees that they make to business clients on it, and they don't want to upgrade or replace the copper. The neighbourhood is fairly new but the area it's connected to is fairly old (road paved and utilities put in way back in the 80s/early-90s for other places near by). This is all speculation from knowing the area and the fact that their residential services has had a number of unexplained outages/issues with bandwidth fairly often (6-7 times a year it'll be out for a few hours or very very slow, and they say they are working on it).


Or just pay for one of the higher speed options. I've gone over the bandwidth cap without fail every month, and they don't care since I pay for the higher speed option (previously the 50Mbit line, now the 105.)


Even though their contract specifies the same data cap for all speed options... So that means that at any time they can decide to terminate you for the same reason.


Does it matter if they don't? I'm sure you can find clauses in most ISP contracts that enable them to terminate you more or less at will, it doesn't matter much if they don't enforce them.


Avoiding and fighting ostensibly-offensive but rarely-enforced laws and policies is essential to preserving consumer freedoms and civil liberties. I, for one, do not want to live in a society with laws that can be applied to anyone but are rarely enforced (as is common now), as in such a society the law will be applied to whomever the enforcer doesn't like.


Whut? Are you stupid? Having a myriad of unenforced laws on the books is by design. Everyone is a criminal all the time and selective enforcement can be brought down like a hammer on your ass.

Yes it makes us non-free, but it is exactly what the man wants.


Surely you see how there may be a problem when the solution to a local monopoly cutting off service for overuse is to throw more money at the same company with absolutely no guarantee that service won't be terminated again.


It's obviously not an ideal situation, but I'm just pointing out (like the person I originally replied to who suggested a business connection [which is more expensive and slower]) that there are ways to work around these restrictions.


Yes, but the point is that if they wake up one day and decide to enforce them, you are screwed. No options for appeal and no other good options for service.


What if there was another ISP in the area offering a similar service but also had the same restrictions? The problem would be exactly the same and this guy would be in the same situation. Competition and having options wouldn't really change anything. It ultimately comes down to the data cap restriction first and foremost.


What, exactly, does Comcast have a monopoly on? Basic internet access might be considered a necessary utility, but an unlimited 15MB line is certainly not.

Also, http://www.google.com/search?q=high+speed+internet+seattle+w...


I live in Capitol Hill (right in the middle of Seattle), and Comcast is the only ISP in my area that offers a connection faster than 5mbps.

It's a legitimate problem.


Even if internet access is a right, internet access >5mbps certainly is not.


Just because something is not a fundamental human right does not mean that it's not possible to have a monopoly over it. Monopolies are a problem, regardless of what they're providing.


5mbps? You're lucky. I live in a densely populated area of another major city in the US, and I can't get anything faster than 3mbps from anyone, no matter how much I'm willing to pay...


So why stop the service, charge more for more data use. Or perhaps throttle your speeds. I think he means monopoly in the terms of disallowing service, I guess he should be ok if they charge him more money for more data usage. Either way I believe there is a monopoly where as locations and service providers are concerned and many a times caps such as 250GB are extremely arbitrary. I mean really whats the technical reasoning for a uniform cap of 250GB whether you are in downtown NY of Seattle? Also I would read this... Extremely thought provoking... http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=2709834


It's cheaper for Comcast to cut off a few "problem" customers than it is for them to actually invest their record profits in upgrading residential infrastructure.


Comcast has a geographic monopoly in his area and like every other monopoly should be under some sort of government regulation. What Comcast should do if they are actually under bandwidth constraints is lower his 15Mb connection to 1Mb after he passed the 250GB cap. What they actually did was drop a customer because their profit margins weren't as high as the wanted them to be.


>What they actually did was drop a customer because their profit margins weren't as high as the wanted them to be.

So what else is new. Greyhound fucked over a lot of small cities 5 to 6 years ago by cutting service to them. I'm now a $80 cab ride to any public transport except Amtrack; and Amtrack is really limited both in times and where it goes.


You're right; He broke their policy.

However, to be fair, Comcast isn't very "open" with regard to the policy. You log in, see a graph, click "details" and get some mumbo jumbo about only 99% of users exceeding the cap. Clicking "Learn more" takes you to a page that is filled with questions that will deter many users (similar to a EULA - who "really" reads those?!) Up until this blog post, I had absolutely no idea they counted upstream against the cap (I thought it was just downstream)!

Sure, it's my fault -- I didn't dig deep enough to find this line in the FAQ:

"Data usage, also known as bandwidth usage, is the amount of data, such as images, movies, photos, videos, and other files that customers send, receive, download or upload over a specific period of time."

Then again, maybe they should just plainly state that on their site somewhere that both uploads and downloads count against my cap?

As a Comcast subscriber, in a similar situation where I am uploading a LOT of data (for work, and cloud based services), this was a rude awakening. Fortunately for me, I'm not using nearly as much bandwidth as he is (last month, I hit 100GB) - but I still wish Comcast was more open. Especially with the world moving towards a more "cloud" based computing (with on demand video!) I mean, their "typical/median use" is laughable in this day and age:

Data usage changes over time as our customers use the Internet and the services and applications available for it. Currently, the median data usage by XFINITY Internet customers is approximately 4 - 6 GB each month (these numbers may vary on a monthly basis). This reflects typical residential use of the service for purposes such as sending and receiving email, surfing the Internet, and watching streaming video.


Seriously, this is a technology company? If they mean to cap at 250GB per month, just halt service during the month when 250GB is hit. Don't let the customer go over, warn, go over, and then suspend them for a year. Seriously, if they are metering it, they can implement a technology solution to halt when the cap is hit that month and not even have this ridiculous abuse of customers having to 'self monitor' the behavior of all the software they have running.

If they want to cap, they need to cap customers with a technical solution.


I completely agree. Use over 250GB? Your internet gets slowed down to molasses until the start of the next month. Customers will notice and adjust.

Here, Comcast is saying "we don't want you as a customer", which they're allowed to do, but doesn't generate very much goodwill. Having a clear cap and predictable consequences would be much preferred.

I don't know why they also couldn't put a little meter on your comcast.net homepage, showing how much you've used.


Better yet, charge for overages. I don't know why Comcast wants to dump these customers when instead they could be charging them an extra $40 (or whatever might be reasonable) for each extra 250GB they use.


> Use over 250GB? Your internet gets slowed down to molasses until the start of the next month. Customers will notice and adjust.

This is how most sane ISPs deal with it. I really cannot see how disconnecting your customers completely is a better solution - there's certainly no technical reason for it, given that (IIRC) Comcast already have throttling measures for BitTorrent users.


There is a meter, but it takes some poking around to find it. Go to your account page and click on "Users and Settings".


Or at least choke you way way down. But even more important than the "cut off at cutoff point" solution is the "let me know my usage" solution. They couldn't (or wouldn't) tell him anything about the shape of his bandwidth usage, or how much he was actually consuming, and there is no way (!) to find out how much has been consumed "so far this month". Even if that way to check was to phone Comcast, but especially if there were a website you could go to, I think Comcast would have a much better case here.


I've used 40GB so far this month. Last month, my usage was 117GB. This is all pretty easy to view on comcast.com.


I actually went well over the cap last month, 315GB according to both Comcast's metering and Tomato on my router (I'd rebuilt the server that runs my Tor relay, but hadn't cranked the bandwidth settings back down, and it ran for a while flat-out). I was sweating bullets, but they never said a thing to me. Most months I do get into the 200GB range, so it doesn't take much to get close to the cap.


That's standard practice for the mobile plans here in Chile. Such bandwidth for the first xxx Mb, 32kbps after that.


I am entitled. I am entitled to a competitive market. I am entitled to companies that have to compete for my business, not take it for granted. I am entitled to companies that always try to move forward and improve their products, not jack up the price while offering less.

Right now, that doesn't exist in the broadband market. And as with any other market that requires high levels of infrastructure investment, I'm becoming less and less convinced that it can exist.


Yes, I agree.

Isn't Comcast abusing their position here to protect their cable business? My friends recently got cut off for going over their limit; well they went over their limit because its a house of 4 using Netflix and downloading games on Steam all the time. This seems obvious to me but nobody else is bringing it up so I must be missing something.

In many markets Comcast is the only option, and they aren't offering connection upgrades or pay per gb. This is the part that doesn't seem right. This is the part that makes me think they are just railing against Netflix users.


I've seen a lot of posts about US telecoms having "soft caps" for usage on what they call "unlimited data" plans, and I can't for the life of me figure out how in the hell something like that can possibly be legal.

If you have a written service contract with your provider that does not explicitly state the service has a bandwidth cap, then how can them shutting off or artificially limiting your access speed /not/ be a breach of contract?

Even if there is a clause in the contract about the traffic cap - without them explicitly informing you of the clause, wouldn't you be able to claim deceptive advertising?


Alas, I suspect you have not read your contracts with these companies. These are known as contracts of adhesion, as there is no negotiation, no crossing out things you don't like, and no power balance between the contracting parties. I was handed a set of contract documents for Comcast Business Class Internet. On the "Starter" line was an X, and a price of $64.95. I read every line of every document, and nowhere was "Starter" ever defined. There was the clause that reads "data rates are not guaranteed", but I was hoping that the contract itself might hint that there was some specified difference between Starter, Preferred, and Other. With this contract, the day after you sign up, your data rate can go to 1Kbps and you are still locked into an up to three year business contract.


Don't make the mistake of assuming everyone on here is an American. I'm not from the US, and I'm reasonably aware of what my ISP is and isn't allowed to do.

Regardless, if what you're saying is accurate then the legal system over there is seriously fucked up.


Unless it states a duration, then they can just discontinue the contract at the next billing cycle. Is there any indication that they did otherwise?

They're not saying "You're over the limit; you're in breach of contract." They're saying "You don't make us enough money. You're no longer our customer."


The worst thing about this is not the cutting off of the service, but the fact that this guy has no reasonable alternative to Comcast in his area.

Tyranny of the last mile still exists, and isn't going away any time soon.


This is true of Tucson, AZ where I live. I can get Comcast for 12mb up / 2mb down for an absurd $60 / mo. Or I can get Qwest for 1.5mb up / 768 kb (kilobits!) down, which is basically like not having a choice.

I was actually so annoyed by this (and by Qwest's advertising around town about their high-speed Internet options) that I sent a letter and e-mail to the president of Qwest Arizona, Jim Campbell, asking if Qwest would roll out real broadband to my apartment complex any time soon. To Qwest's credit, his assistant replied (this was back in Jan. 2010) to say no. She's sent an e-mail every six months or so with an update on the situation.

The upshot: Comcast or fuck off.


See, the worst part is that, in some places, there is no choice at all. A 1.5Mb connection is enough for email and basic internet usage - in some places, you have Comcast, or you hook up a modem and use dial-up.


And he's even near/in a city!

Imagine this scenario playing out somewhere where even less options exist, like a rural town in the midwest... you get cut off, you can switch to what? Dial-up?


There's satellite, but bandwidth and limits are worse there.

He was exceeding his limits, and received a couple of warnings. I'm not a fan of Comcast by any means, but it seems to me that in this case he should have upgraded to a plan that would accommodate his needs. Uploading terabytes of AV data to Carbonite isn't going to work very well over standard residential uplink speeds anyway.


But is there a plan that would meet his needs? 15/3 is top tier in a lot of places, and they often won't sell commercial lines to residences. He may have had no choice but to just use less bandwidth.

Or pay for a second line. It sounds like he and all his friends and random guests were all using a single line. That's not how Comcast envisioned its usage, and their usage caps reflect that.

Don't get me wrong. I think they handled this really poorly. But I don't think he paid enough attention to the situation, either.


I was in a similar situation a couple of years ago with Comcast. I upgraded to their business package and haven't heard a word since. As far as I know, business lines are available everywhere residential one are.


He should be able to get a T1 or higher. No cap to deal with then.


This crybaby's in Seattle and he's complaining about the lack of ISPs? Hell, there's Speakeasy to begin with.


While there are plenty of ISPs in Seattle, in many places Comcast is the only option for better than 1.5Mbps DSL.

Qwest owns the lines and although has announced greater speeds planned for the Seattle area, few have received them. [1] Verizon tried to bring fiber-to-the-home, mostly on the outskirts of Seattle, and has since abandoned the market. [2] The city of Seattle studied fiber in 2005 but decided they need a partner. After Qwest and Verizon fell through, the mayor applied for Google's Fiber for Communities in 2010 [3], but didn't get it. Now in 2011, the only company delivering fiber in Seattle is... Comcast. [4] Qwest, now becoming CenturyLink, doesn't have any publicized current plans to improve service.

I'm not arguing that highspeed broadband is a right, but Comcast definitely has a chokehold on the majority of the Seattle broadband market.

[1] http://westseattleblog.com/forum/topic/whats-the-status-of-q...

[2] http://www.examiner.com/information-technology-in-seattle/ve...

[3] http://mayormcginn.seattle.gov/seattle-applies-for-google-fi...

[4] http://www.seattle.gov/broadband/


I won't claim that Seattle is a terrible place for broadband, but it's also not wine and roses.

On the cable side, Comcast "competes" with Broadstripe. Broadstripe has both terrible customer service and poor internet service. Broadstripe also happens to have a bunch of apartment and condo complexes covered in an exclusivity agreement. Broadstripe makes Comcast look great in almost every regard.

On the DSL side it's true that Speakeasy is available, but if you are willing to ignore customer service, Qwest DSL is almost always dramatically cheaper. It's a good option, but sometimes not available above 1.5mbps, even in extremely central areas like Belltown, which is a neighborhood of condos and apartments directly adjoining downtown.

I'm on Comcast residential now and I'm pretty happy with it compared to my past experiences with all the companies I mentioned above, but next time I move within Seattle I now know one of the top questions to ask is what kind of internet access options the place has.


Since Speakeasy was bought by Best Buy and then shuffled off into MegaPath's maw, their customer service has gotten progressively worse. Qwest's customer service is OK as long as you're willing to learn the right magic phrases that they use. That's the hard part. On the flip side, their field techs have always been uniformly competent when I've dealt with them in spite of having to cope with the massive wad of bureaucracy that goes along with working for a huge telecom company.

DSL in general is slow in Seattle because the city hasn't spent much effort in upgrading its (or encouraging telecoms to upgrade their) old copper telecom infrastructure. When line lengths aren't just really long, they're often running over corroding 40 and 50 year-old copper. In about half the buildings I've lived in, the NID was still the very old nut-and-bolt screw down terminal style interfaces. 66 and 110 blocks? What are those?


Here here. I have had Speakeasy since 1999. I used to love them with a passion. But over the years, they've basically stood still. My bandwidth has never increased, even when they said I could get 15 MB down. That turned out to not be possible (Major packet loss, unreliable connection). So, here I am paying the same amount I paid in 1999 for the same bandwidth I had in 2000. $100 a month for 3.0/768.

I hate it! But there are no other options in my neighborhood, except Comcast. I even live in Oakland. If I was in SF, I could get Astound, which I hear is awesome. But in Oakland, where I live, it's Comcast or something super inferior.

Speakeasy has had about 10X more outages this year than they have had over the past 12 years, BTW.


Wrong...

1. Satellite Broadband 2. Wireless Broadband(most wireless co's slow bandwidth by 15% after bandwidth cap is exceeded and do not cut off) In building use buy a $200 Wilson Wireless amplifier


Both have terrible latency. Furthermore, they both have bandwidth caps. While the provider will not cut you off for going above, they will start charging you absurd prices for it.

The only wireless broadband provider now who doesn't chargis for over usage is Sprint. If he is cut off from that, the situation repeats itself. There is no competition, and that is the main problem.


Prepaid wireless broadband will always cut you off as long as you use a pre-paid card.


T-Mobile and Virgin are the only carriers I'm aware of that use a "soft" cap as you describe. AT&T and Verizon don't cut you off, they just keep charging you by the GB when you break the cap.


You have to switch to a small business account instead of a residential account with comcast. Then you get genuinely unlimited use, no bandwidth cap. That is the only way to get past their 250GB cap. It's absurd that they won't sell you more bandwidth on any residential plan at any price, and that they kick people off the service rather than charging overages.

You do not need to have a business location to do this, or actually have a business. They will sell you small business cable internet at your residential apartment.


I looked at this, but they want to charge a high installation fee and have a 1-year contract. Can you avoid the installation fee if you already have residential service? What about the contract?


Business internet plans for personal use are way too expensive IMO. $100/month for 22Mbits? That's terrible.


Depends on where you are. In my town, business cable is 10/1 for $100 only if you sign a 3-year contract.


What are you suggesting? Is there a competing product available to buy which is better? I don't know of one in most areas. IMO bandwidth is worth paying for.

You can say there "should" be better deals available. But it doesn't do any good. If you think it's so easy to provide better internet then start a company.


> You can say there "should" be better deals available. But it doesn't do any good. If you think it's so easy to provide better internet then start a company.

Natural monopolies have long been recognized as a good target for government involvement, like public goods: https://secure.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/wiki/Natural_monop...


You can say there "should" be better deals available. But it doesn't do any good. If you think it's so easy to provide better internet then start a company.

Because sitting idly watching ISP's ratchet up costs and lower the quality of service sure is getting things done.


I just said don't be idle. Be an entrepreneur. You are neither listening nor solving the problem, just idly complaining.


I'm saying $100/month for 22 megabits is terrible, it doesn't have to be this expensive.


Terrible compared to what? Go back 10 years and it's great. Go forward 10 years and it's terrible. Today, there's nothing better.


Cincinnati Bell offers 30mb down / 10mb up fiber-optic for $60/month and a 50/20 plan for $80. I'm pretty sure there's no data cap either, I've hit several terabytes some months without any issues. I've had this service for about 2 years now, and there was a $10/month discount when I first signed up.


It's terrible in the fact that at my old address I got 25 Megabit for $65/month with no cap via AT+T and my work friends got 50 Megabit/month via Brighthouse for $65/month. Comcast can do better.


From Comcasts AUP: What will happen if I exceed 250 GB of data usage in a month?

The vast majority - more than 99% - of our customers will not be impacted by a 250 GB monthly data usage threshold. If you exceed more than 250 GB, you may receive a call from the Customer Security Assurance ("CSA") team to notify you of excessive use. At that time, we will tell you exactly how much data you used. When we call you, we try to help you identify the source of excessive use and ask you to moderate your usage, which the vast majority of our customers do voluntarily. If you exceed 250GB again within six months of the first contact, your service will be subject to termination and you will not be eligible for either residential or commercial internet service for twelve (12) months. We know from experience that most customers curb their usage after our first call. If your account is terminated, after the twelve (12) month period expires, you may resume service by subscribing to a service plan appropriate to your needs.

They say they will help you identify the reason you went over your cap. "When we call you, we try to help you identify the source of excessive use and ask you to moderate your usage, which the vast majority of our customers do voluntarily." Which they clearly didn't do in this case. This would be acceptable if we had another option for broadband internet, but we don't.


How is it reasonable for somebody to expect to be able to upload "terabytes of RAW images, musics tracks ripped in lossless format, etc."? That seems to be substantially outside the scope of what both Comcast's home user internet service is designed for, and, I would guess, Carbonite as well -- although I note that Carbonite does offer "unlimited" backups for home users. I agree with other commenters -- this sounds like a serious case of entitlement. I don't know whether Internet access should be considered a right or not; but even if it is, I would say it only really works if people are reasonable and responsible in their usage of it. Just like it's a right for me to speak my mind, but people will still shun me if I insist on doing so at full volume in all venues at all times, in a way that impedes others from enjoying _their_ access to that right.


> How is it reasonable for somebody to expect to be able to upload "terabytes of RAW images, musics tracks ripped in lossless format, etc."? That seems to be substantially outside the scope of what both Comcast's home user internet service is designed for,

You're suggesting that people only use the internet in certain ways and you're deeming services that you don't use unnecessary for other people.

How did you use the internet five years ago? Does it differ from how you use it now? What about ten years ago? Times change, and the internet changes faster than most things. Every day, there are more people online, more devices online, and more services online to take advantage of.

For some people, 250GB/month is unreasonable. This guy is obviously one of them. In five years, it will be unreasonable for a larger percentage of people, as the way we use the internet evolves. Netflix is the most obvious example of this.

> Just like it's a right for me to speak my mind, but people will still shun me if I insist on doing so at full volume in all venues at all times, in a way that impedes others from enjoying _their_ access to that right.

How do my internet habits interfere with your internet habits? These are not at all analogous.


> For some people, 250GB/month is unreasonable.

If 250GB/month is unreasonable, then those people should not be signing up for a 250GB/month service plan. There's nothing stopping him from getting a business plan, for example, with a larger cap or no cap at all. It's not reasonable for this user to expect to dictate both the bandwidth limits _and_ the low price point. Even if we stipulate that internet access is a human right, I don't think it's reasonable to assert that everybody is entitled to unlimited bandwidth to the internet, at somebody else's expense.

> How do my internet habits interfere with your internet habits?

As far as I know, at some point this guy's connection is going through a shared resource, whether that is a switch or router or hub or whatever. Those gadgets only have so much bandwidth available, which is shared amongst all the connections going through it. Sure, most of the time the limit of that hardware vastly exceeds the demands of those connections, but there _is_ a limit, and it is possible (albeit, perhaps, unlikely) that one guy, uploading _terabytes_ of data, could impede his neighbor's ability to enjoy the internet.


If he is using the circuit for work, then pay the additional cash and get a commercial class circuit which is, effectively, uncapped.

He already had one disconnect and chose to ignore it rather than take appropriate steps to modify usage. He agreed to their cap.

The idea that internet service is a right is bizarre bourgeoisie bollocks.


No! "internet is a right" is not bollocks, but "unlimited internet is a right" is.


Indian ISPs found a curious way of tackling these situations. Since they sell their plans as unlimited, they can't fully cut off the internet access. So as soon as the fair use limit is crossed, the speed drops to punishing 256kbps till the month gets over :|.


256kbps isn't as terrible as it may seem. My internet used to be cut to 56k when it went over, and 95% of websites wouldn't even finish loading. Now I think it cuts back to 512kbps, so things at least load, just no downloading really.


Conmcast should do this. Not cut off his service, but drop his speed to 1MB/s for 1 month. He will then be motivated to find the source of the problem.


I'm worried about this. I live with 4 other internet heavy users, so I checked our usage last week, and saw that we've consistently been blowing past the 250GB cap. Last month, we hit 566GB.

Comcast hasn't contacted me or shut off our service yet, and I hope they don't.


How did you check, I couldn't see anywhere on Comcast's site that gave this info.

I used to have a DD-WRT router with bandwidth monitoring but we're now using an Apple Airport Extreme, and I don't think it has such capability :/


BTW: I just discovered that Airport Extreme is SNMP compatible so you can get the bandwidth passing over the wan port that way.

If you have a Mac always running on the network, you can try freeware app http://www.thotzy.com/THOTZY/Thotz/Entries/2008/10/26_Traffi...


If you log into the Comcast Website and go to "Users & Settings" you should see "High-Speed Internet Data Usage" next to the sidebar.


It can be flaky, sometimes the bar doesn't appear, but usually it does. I have the page bookmarked to I can check it easily. It sorta feels like I'm living in the 1990s and checking on my dial up modem.


I totally disagree about broadband being a right. And neither is electricity, insurance, or clean water.

However, I do agree that it's a necessity for modern living, just like the rest of the above. As such, I think it should be protected in the same ways.


Presumably you're also paying a fixed monthly fee for "unlimited" broadband. It's likely you're paying per amount used for electricity and water. I'd bet your insurance is a fixed periodic fee with coverage capped at a certain amount. If my assumptions are correct, then your broadband services is already treated very much like your insurance service.

How do you propose things change?


Most companies have overage charges you can elect to pay, instead of canceling your account. That would have been a good start.

Others mentioned not pretending to be unlimited. Actually charge for usage, instead. (I actually hope companies don't do this, as I'm WAY above the norm for usage.)

Another thing that some companies do is limit your speed once you hit the cap. That makes sure that you can do anything you -need- to, but can't go too much further over the cap.


Returning to a pay for usage model is a fine suggestion, and would make internet service much more like electric service.

It is amusing to remember how people disparaged pay for usage models just over a decade ago, though. :-)


The two arguments I still see against pay-for-usage models:

1. ISPs will structure the rates so that everyone ends up paying more.

2. The early adopters and developers that push technology forward are often at the high end of bandwidth usage, and in exchange for bringing new technology to the masses, the masses should be okay with 0.1% of their bill paying for the early adopters' bandwidth.


Maybe have Comcast stop pretending that "unlimited" means limited?


The analogy only holds if there was only one insurance company you could buy from who only offered a very small range of policies (none of which fits your needs).


Comcast doesn't have a monopoly in Seattle. There are multiple providers from which he could procure service.

Regardless, I'm curious what models people advocate. After all, there appears to be only one electric provider in Seattle. If we were, as proposed, to follow that model, then Comcast could negotiate to be the single service provider and then charge per usage. Is that more desirable than what we have now, where there are multiple providers offering different services at different rates?

If we're to argue for something different, we should be aware of what we're arguing for.


But if you use large amounts of electric, water, or insurance you get to pay for it. None of them offer unlimited models.


I posted 1.2TB of usage last month. I love the little graph on their comcast.com homepage. Nice big and red bar way way over the 250GB limit. No one contacted me about it.

But I'm paying for the super extreme 50mb/sec burst plan for 120/mo so I'm guessing that's the reason they leave me alone

"what are you downloading" -> starcraft replays, also downloading video backups to S3


HA-HA-HA. Living in third world country (Moldova) i have real unlimited 20Mbs. 500Gb a month is the minimum traffic i have.



This is why I pay $130 a month for Speakeasy broadband. They give me 6M and I can use 6M 24/7 with no complaint.

Bandwidth costs money. So consumer "ISPs" (and I use that term in a very loose sense) tell you what the burst bandwidth is, and then hope that you don't burst very often. When you do, they drop you, because you cost them money. The solution is to just get a real Internet connection. "Business" is the magic word.

The alternative to Comcast's cap strategy is that everyone would be paying $500 a month for Internet access, or you'd be limited to 768kbps with no burst.


No, the alternative, clearly and obviously, is net access the way it is in Europe, where it's both cheaper and much faster than here.

Personally, I think Comcast should be stripped of the right to sell net access at all. They're clearly a bad actor.


> This is why I pay $130 a month for Speakeasy broadband. They give me 6M and I can use 6M 24/7 with no complaint.

I like Speakeasy, too (I think they're now called Megapath, though). But around this part of Phoenix, the best they can do is 144 Kbps IDSL and it still costs $120/month. And just because a lot of people confuse Kb and KB, I should mention that, when you account for actual download speeds, you end up with ~15 KB/s, maybe 17-18 KB/s on a good day. And around here, the cable companies cap you at 20 GB/month, which is actually less than you can transfer even on a line this slow.

I don't think that $500/month internet is actually the alternative, though. I think the real alternative is to set things up so that there's real competition in the marketplace, rather than a bunch of regional monopolies and a few small competitive areas.

Otherwise, they'll spend all their time looking for ways to increase revenue by finding new things to charge us for. After all, the whole Net Neutrality thing started up because they were musing about ways to charge people for using services the ISPs don't actually provide, like Google.


If only the market was competitive, this would be a non-story. "Right" or not, our future economic success depends on driving broadband prices down and service quality up.


I am surprised Comcast doesn't just offer a 500GB month plan. Or 750GB month... just set a price and tell him he needs to pay it.


I thought about that or just do what the wireless companies do and charge him per KB over his limit. The first $2,000 bill should get him back into line pretty fast.


He went over his usage, broke his eula etc. Comcast has the right to restrict him, perhaps by slowing his connecttion or charging overages. But seriously, "No net for you! 1 YEAR!"????

Who wrote that policy? Seinfeld?

That's damn ugly monopoly behavior that should be brought to the attention of the FCC.


This is stupid. Comcast makes it very easy to monitor your monthly bandwidth, and the 250 GB limit is clearly stated. You may disagree with the entire concept of limits, but they aren't selling the service as unlimited, so it is what you agree to.


Is Comcast really a monopoly in some parts of the US? Aren't there any other viable options?


In San Francisco, where I live, they have basically a monopoly on high speed internet. Here are the options and speeds I have tested:

1) DSL (through ATT or Sonic.net, I got Sonic's ADSL2 service) ~$60 a month, 3.4/0.86 Mbps

2) Monkeybrains local wireless rooftop ISP: $35 a month, ~10/10Mbps, depending on location (large building to the north blocks service to my building)

3) Webpass, same as Monkeybrains, but only handles buildings with like 10+ apartment units, $45 a month, 100/100 or 45/45 Mbps, basically has to already be available where you live, so not me

4) Comcast residential service, ~$60 a month, 22.3/4.34 Mbps, this is what I went with

5) Find someone with a fast internet connection and set up some sort of wireless directional antenna or free space optics to use their connection from the roof - expensive and I don't know anyone with a connection that fast within sight of my building.

Nobody can run fiber because of ATT and Comcast having basically monopolies on running cables anywhere. I mean, the city isn't too proactive anyway in that area, but ATT and Comcast are clearly slowing it down a lot


I think this is the main issue I'm seeing in this discussion. I'd say yes, there are other options available. You use a lot of bandwidth? They have your roomies chip in and get a T1 or something higher. There are alternatives, but you have to consider the price.

Whether he wants to admit or not, there are tons of alternatives, he's just too cheap to lay down the cash to get what he needs. Besides telecom company options, there's always satellite as an option.


I'm surprised no one's noticed all the conspiracy theories mentioned on the main site.


Not sure if this is a right. The fact that ISP limits the data cap is ridiculous but it is only for the good of others. This story I think only applies to say less than 1% of normal population. Ok, 250GB/month is not that high, may be making it 500GB/month is more appropriate.

What ISP could do is still put the cap on and charge extra for every 10GB after that with a small fee. I think most people dont want to pay extra even if it cost several dollars a month. This models the way we pay for gas, power, water too.

But the points are: - Increase the cap to 500GB for example - Don't penalize, charge for each extra 10GB


Interesting. I'm on their 50/20 (mbps down/up) plan and regularly go WAY over the 250GB 'limit' in San Francisco's Mission district and have had no repercussions for doing so. I wonder what the specific conditions are for when/where they choose to enforce this limit, or if it is entirely arbitrary. I've hit a TB down in a single month, and have never heard a word from Comcast about it.

Do they turn a blind eye because I'm on a more expensive plan, or is it because of lack of network congestion in the Mission, or maybe due to the availability of alternative internet service providers?


Oh come on. You're completely abusing Comcast's Service and now you're telling some sympathetic story about how it's unfair. 250GB/month is massive, and you knew full well that you were on your last chance, and it's not surprising that they measure upload data as bandwidth (what on earth did you expect?).

If you were going to be using the service like that, you should've asked first. Don't try and tell us you 'forgot' that you had a server down stairs moving gigabytes of data around. I wouldn't want you as a customer either.


I have cellular Internet and while the speed is not ideal (about 2Mb/s during the day and 7Mb/s at night) I have unlimited data. I even asked their customer service "so I could run 100Tb of data a month and that would be ok?" And they told me it would be. Granted it's not ideal, but I can stream 360p video on it(my laptop resolution isn't enough for anything higher to make a difference) and since I use it at night most of the time I never have a problem with slow download rates.


The basic problem here is that 250GB per person is not sustainable with the current networks, nor is it sustainable at rates people are willing to pay for access.

Cloud and other services that depend on enormous bandwidth costs to be absorbed by others leads to the free rider problem. NetFlix is the biggest free rider around. Their rates do not cover the cost of bandwidth because their basic business model is parasitical.


In Montreal caps are around 20gb up+down per month.

While 250 gb seems "unlimited" for most of you, 20 gb is not. I suggest you start fighting now.


I think I broke the 250GB cap for 6 months straight (using around 280GB to 350GB), and they didn't care. When I did 1TB in a month, they called me and thought my WIFI was hacked and warned me to not go over. The next couple month I think I did like 275GB. Overall, they are pretty nice about it. I still have my Internet.

I'm curious how far over this person went.


I have Comcast in Seattle and have gone over the limit 2 of the last 3 months uploading backups to CrashPlan. 260gb in April and 455gb in May. I haven't gotten a warning and my service hasn't been cut off.

I'm not sure what he did to incur their wrath, but it makes me think he was probably exceeding the limit for at least 3 months prior to the warnings.


I wouldn't be surprised if Comcast also does audits and sees, "Oh, this is to CrashPlan" or Carbonite/Mozy/etc... In those cases I suspect they're a lot less likely to pursue than if it was torrents or serving video streams from your house.


The most neutral resolution to this is instead of comcast denying service to this user, they need to install fees for excessive amounts of data used. While this person thinks of bandwith as a utility and a right, a utility is not based on a flat rate, and the writer obviously voided their agreement of their right to use data.


Talk about first world problems. This guy is acting like his access to water was denied because he can't stream movies or use Dropbox.

I lived without internet for a year. I was fine. Nobody shunned me from society and I didn't lose the ability to make money. For a while i'd walk over to Starbucks or Dunkin Donuts if I needed an hour of 'net access. When I had to do some interviews from home I went and got a month of Virgin Mobile 3g data for $40.

I do believe everyone should have the right to use the internet, since as a communication tool it's more ubiquitous than the telephone and some things like government services require online registration (ex. vehicle inspection at the DMV where I live requires an online-only form). I also believe the poor should get free access, and maybe some day free 'loaned OLPC netbooks.

However, he's going about explaining why being banned from the internet is wrong in entirely the wrong way. His defense is basically "I should have the right to be entertained and use free services that there are offline alternatives of!!" If I were an ISP i'd want to ban a guy who uploaded 3 copies of the same song and RAW images too.


This is only going to get worse, and claiming that internet is a "right" or a "utility" will evnetually invite government regulation, which will amplify the pervasive and inevitable problem of corporate malfeasance.

We need to build an internet without ISPs if we want to keep what we have.


...and that if I had any decent competitive options in the neighborhood I'd dump Comcast in a heartbeat. Since I don't .."

I think its important to note the lack of competition. I wonder what that cap and price would be if there were even one other provider in the same area?


What amazes me is only having one broadband option in Seattle of all places.

I live in a small mid-western city and have as of now 3 wired choices plus N wireless choices (depending if you you 4g providers, etc).


I really wished I'd moved into a place in Seattle which is serviced by condointernet. 100Megabits! No caps!

http://condointernet.net/


In Russia internet providers simply trim the bandwidth of the customers who use too much traffic. Internet still works, but slower. Comcast may consider doing the same.


I doubt anything one has to pay for could be a 'human right' but, if so, my bet is on '3 meals a day' becoming a human right before 'internet access' does.

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